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Patrick Poole

Patrick Poole is a national security and terrorism correspondent for PJMedia. Follow me on Twitter.
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BREAKING: Minneapolis Jihadist Reported Killed Fighting with ISIS in Syria

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

A claim that a jihadist from Minneapolis has been killed in the fighting surrounding the city of Kobane is currently circulating on Twitter.

These two tweets appeared yesterday:

The reported number of Somali-American youths from the Twin Cities area who have traveled to fight with ISIS in Syria has varied widely.

Earlier this year two men from the Twin Cities, Abdiraaman Muhumad and Douglas McCain, were reported killed. And in late August I reported here at PJ Media on a video claiming another three Americans had been killed (thought not identifying them).

If yesterday’s report is correct, this would represent yet another loss in a long line of jihadist recruits from the Twin Cities.

More than 20 men from Minneapolis joined up in 2007 and 2008 to fight with Al-Shabaab in Somalia. More have left since to fight with various jihadist groups in Syria.

The problem of radicalization in the Somali community in the Twin Cities is a topic I’ve been reporting on since 2007 – nearly a year before other media outlets – when I reported on a recruiting and fundraising meeting in Minneapolis where the first round of jihadists, including the first American suicide bomber, were recruited.

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Did Cop Killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley Visit Terror-Tied Brooklyn Mosque?

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

In my previous posts on assassin Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who murdered two New York Police Department officers on Saturday, I noted that he had posted on Facebook a page of the Quran with a notorious verse calling on Muslims to “strike terror into the [hearts of] the enemies of Allah,” and another post about a fight he recently engaged in with an Atlanta panhandler when he discovered the panhandler was a “Muslim too.”

But an Instagram message posted by Brinsley during Ramadan five months ago may indicate that he visited one of America’s most terror-tied mosques:

 

Eid Mubarak

Responding to a comment on his message, he notes that he is headed to “Al-Farooq Tomorrow inshallah.” His social media traffic indicates that he transited from Atlanta, Baltimore and Brooklyn on a regular basis.

If this reference by the cop killer was from Brooklyn (which is hard to discern since his Instagram account has been taken down), it may indicate that he was going to visit Masjid Al-Farooq in Brooklyn.

Al-Farooq’s long history of terror support goes back more than 20 years, when the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was hatched by members. One imam from the early 1990s, when Al-Farooq was a hub of the nascent Al-Qaeda and was hosting Al-Qaeda co-founder Abdullah Azzam, was Fawaz Damra, who was charged, convicted and later deported for lying to immigration officials about his terror ties when he applied for U.S. citizenship.

Another Al-Farooq imam, Gulshair Shukrijumah, was not only a regular translator for the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, but his son, Adnan, became a top Al-Qaeda operative and was killed in a gun battle with Pakistani intelligence just a few weeks ago.

Yet another mosque official, Sheikh Mohammed al-Moayad, was charged in 2003 with using the mosque as a front to raise $20 million for Al-Qaeda. At the time, the New York Times noted the mosque’s extensive connections to terrorism.

It remains to be seen if the Brooklyn Al-Farooq mosque is the one referred to in Brinsley’s Instagram post. If so, it will be yet another connection that NYPD officials will need to examine as they investigate the cold-blooded murder of their two colleagues.

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NYPD Cop Killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley Started Fight with Atlanta Panhandler, Discovered He Was ‘Muslim Too’

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Muslim too

Following up on my previous post about cop killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s Facebook post citing a Quranic verse about “striking terror into their hearts,” there is another post from his now-defunct Facebook page worthy of note.

In November, while he was apparently in Atlanta, Brinsley posted that he had got into a fight with a panhandler. He notes that after he stopped the fight he found out the panhandler was a “Muslim too” and the pair, according to his own account, went to a bar for a drink.

Also, it appears that Brinsley might have visited a terror-tied Brooklyn mosque.

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Cop Killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley Posted Quranic Verse: ‘And Strike Terror Into Their Hearts’

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

As news begins to trickle out on Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the shooter who murdered two NYPD cops today execution-style, it has been discovered that Brinsley posted on his Facebook account a page of the Quran with a notorious verse calling for waging terror on Allah’s enemies.B5VVcvcCIAAj6C2

Quran 8:60 says:

Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly.

The title for Suran 8 is “Al-Anfal,” “The Spoils of War.” A segment of this same verse is used by the Muslim Brotherhood in their logo directly beneath the two swords, “And make ready…”:

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Another image from what appears to be his now deactivated Instagram account from five months ago shows him wishing viewers an “Eid Mubarak” during Ramadan, as well as another image of a burning American flag.

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More: 

NYPD Cop Killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley Started Fight With Atlanta Panhandler, Discovered He Was “Muslim Too”

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‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome: Sydney Hostage-Taker Is Yet Another Case

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

With the hostage situation resolved — hopefully with no innocent lives lost (reports just coming in – UPDATE: Reports say that one hostage as well as the gunman are dead) — and the release of the name of the hostage taker, Iranian-born Islamic cleric Man Monis aka Shiekh Haron, this seems to be yet another case of what I termed here at PJ Media several weeks ago as “Known Wolf Syndrome.”

In that article, following two separate terror attacks in Canada in which the suspects were already well-known to authorities, I noted that in the U.S., too, in many of the domestic terrorism cases the culprits had already been identified to law enforcement as problems. In the present case, not only was the suspect well-known, but he was out on bail on murder charges related to the stabbing and setting on fire of his ex-wife, with whom he was in a heated custody dispute.

Monis came to Australia in 1996 from Iran and his immigration status was that of political refugee. He has since had other well-known run-ins with law enforcement. In 2009, he sent a series of hate messages, which he deemed as “flowers of advice,” to the families of Australian military members who had been killed in action. He likened their deaths to the deaths of Hitler’s soldiers, as well as to families of Australian victims of international terrorism attacks. He was given 300 hours of community service.

In another case, Monis was charged with 50 counts of sexual assault, where it was claimed that he lured victims in and assaulted them claiming it was a “spiritual healing technique.”

We’ll undoubtedly learn more in the days to come about the intentions and motives of the suspect in the case. The evidence at hand clearly indicates that Monis was another example of the two-faced Islamic cleric. In this case, Monis claimed that he was “an Australian who wanted a safe future for our country” (HT: Stewart Bell) while simultaneously — and openly — hating the very country that gave him refuge.

Yet again, we have a case in the West in which a domestic terrorist was well-known to law enforcement authorities and yet action sufficient to prevent the tragedy at hand was never taken despite the opportunity to do so (in this instance, he was out on bail).

Nonetheless, this will be yet another case where so-called terrorism “experts” will be trotted out by the media and political officials to claim that Monis was a case of “lone wolf syndrome.” Or that his actions were entirely unpredictable, and the government will need more money for terrorism programs that won’t work, and for outreach to the very extremists who continue to murder, rape, and maim innocents. And the “voxsplaining” has begun, distancing the suspect from any known extremist group.

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Report: Al-Qaeda Using CIA-Supplied TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Northern Syria

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media that U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups were allying with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, in the south, while others were surrendering their weapons to the terror group in the north.

Now a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights indicates that Jabhat al-Nusra is using TOW anti-tank missiles, which had previously been supplied by the CIA to “vetted moderates” groups, in an assault on a Syrian army position in the north (HT: Zaid Benjamin):

Idlib province: No less than 15 soldiers in regime forces were killed by an attack by Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic fighters on their bastions in Wadi al-Deif and al-Hamdia camps, while no less than 8 fighters from the other side were killed during the clashes in the area, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic battalions have taken over the checkpoints of ” al-Za’lan, al-Raii, al-Rab’an ” around the camps. Jabhat al-Nusra devastated a tank for regime forces around Wadi al-Deif camp with an American Tao [sic] missile.

A report last month indicated that the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and Harakat Hazm — both U.S.-backed and supplied by the CIA with TOW missiles — had surrendered or abandoned their weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra.

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US-Backed Syrian Rebels Ally with Al-Qaeda in South, Surrender CIA-Supplied Weapons in the North

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

For months I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media about the ongoing cooperation between US-backed “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel units and designated terrorist groups ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. This includes U.S.-backed rebel units who have defected wholesale to ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

Despite multiple reports of this cooperation, in September the congressional GOP leadership jumped on board with Obama’s proposal to spend an additional $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates” just weeks before the Obama administration abandoned the Free Syrian Army that had been the primary beneficiary of U.S. support for the past three years.

Now reports this weekend indicate growing cooperation between U.S.-backed rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra operating in southern Syria.

According to the LA Times:

Opposition activists reported intensified government bombardment in and around Sheik Maskin and the arrival of battle-tested loyalist reinforcements.

Fighting along with U.S.-backed rebels were elements of Al Nusra Front, the official Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

In a Facebook posting, Al Nusra supporters reported “vicious battles” in the Sheik Maskin area. Earlier posts also eulogized a prominent Al Nusra commander, Abu Humam Jazrawi, who was killed in the fighting.

Al Nusra’s participation illustrates how Western-supported rebel groups often cooperate with the Al Qaeda franchise, though both sides try to play down the extent of coordination. Recent clashes between Al Nusra Front and U.S.-backed rebels in northwestern Syria do not appear to have broken the de facto alliance between the Al Qaeda affiliate and West-backed fighters in the south. (emphasis added)

Meanwhile, in northern Syria as “vetted moderate” groups were forming an umbrella with hardcore jihadist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, other U.S.-backed units were surrendering to Jabhat al-Nusra (a trend I noted last month) and turning over their CIA-provided arms to Ahrar al-Sham, McClatchy reports:

On Friday, as the groups were meeting here, the Nusra Front stormed the bases of two moderate rebel groups in Syria’s north: the Ansar Brigades in Idlib and the Haqq Front in Hama. The two groups, both of which were receiving U.S. support through a covert CIA program, surrendered to Nusra, delivered their weapons to Ahrar al Sham and returned to their homes. (emphasis added)

And today Syria analyst Aron Lund noted that the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army signed an agreement last week with Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham for the Qalamoun area near the Lebanese border guaranteeing the imposition of sharia and creating a mutual defense pact.

The “vetted moderate” follies continue.

 

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More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media on the surrender and defections of U.S.-backed Syrian rebel troops to Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate), most notably the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, which the DC foreign policy establishment was hailing as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” and Harkat al-Hazm, the first group to receive heavy weaponry from the U.S. earlier this year.

Now Mona Mahmood of the Guardian reports that elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are defecting to ISIS:

US air strikes in Syria are encouraging anti-regime fighters to forge alliances with or even defect to Islamic State (Isis), according to a series of interviews conducted by the Guardian.

Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months.

Some brigades have transferred their allegiance, while others are forming tactical alliances or truces. Support among civilians also appears to be growing in some areas as a result of resentment over US-led military action.

“Isis now is like a magnet that attracts large numbers of Muslims,” said Abu Talha, who defected from the FSA a few months ago and is now in negotiations with other fighters from groups such as the al-Nusra Front to follow suit.

As the article notes, rebels perceive the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra as a “war on Islam”:

[FSA fighter Murad] and his fellow fighters were awaiting the arrival of Isis militants in Homs, he added. “The moment Isis fighters touch the soil of the Homs countryside, we will be the first to fight with them at the front. This [US-led] military coalition is not against Isis, it is against entire Islam.”

This sentiment is hardly aberrant among the so-called “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels. As I reported back in September, the U.S.-backed Harakat al-Hazm issued a statement at the outset of the U.S. anti-ISIS bombing campaign saying it was  ”an attack on the revolution.”

And I’ve also previously reported that many of these U.S.-backed and armed “vetted moderate” groups have shifting alliances that include fighting with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

As far back as July there were reports that large groups of FSA units were defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, surrendering their U.S.-provided weapons along the way, and that other FSA units were forging peace deals and fighting alongside al-Qaeda and ISIS in some areas.

While most of the D.C. foreign policy establishment was promoting the arming of the so-called “vetted moderate” FSA, a few of us were openly skeptical of any effort to back so-called “moderate jihadists.” Whether by Republicans or Democrats, such efforts in the past have always ended in tears for the U.S. and led to increased threats to our national security.

This policy in Syria has been so disastrous the Obama administration has been openly distancing themselves from their “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel partners.

Remarkably, as I noted earlier this month, congressional Republican leadership jumped on board with Obama’s policies at the very moment he was abandoning them, voting to spend another $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates.” Meanwhile, some GOP figures who supported Obama’s policies of supporting and arming the FSA since 2011, namely John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have been unapologetic in the face of the collapse and defections of their “vetted moderate” friends.

It remains to be seen whether the new Congress that will be seated in January will follow the folly of the current Congress in providing training, money and weapons to the FSA. But expect these defections by the FSA and other U.S.-backed groups to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra to continue.

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Obama National Security Adviser Cites Bogus Iranian Anti-Nuke Weapons Fatwa

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

With just days before the November 24th deadline to conclude negotiations to continue the freeze on Iran’s nuclear program, a senior Obama administration official, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, invoked a fake fatwa by Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Khamenei while speaking to the media yesterday.

CBS reporter Major Garrett tweeted earlier this morning:

Rhodes nuke fatwa

Rhodes is not the first to fall for the bogus Iranian fatwa, as President Obama has cited it on at least two different occasions, including his address to the UN General Assembly in 2013.

But at that time, a number of sources pointed out that there’s no proof that such a fatwa exists. As CNS News reported:

As the international community has tracked Iran’s steady progress in developing technologies used to manufacture nuclear weapons, some critics have called into question the religious or ideological significance of such a ruling – or whether it even exists. Iranian officials in referring to it have given at least three different years of issue – 2004, 2005 and 2012.

“While Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa has been the stuff of diplomatic gossip for years, no one citing it has ever actually seen it,” commented American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin. “Khamenei lists all of his fatwas on his webpage, but the nuclear fatwa isn’t among them.”

“Such a fatwa was never issued by Supreme Leader Khamenei and does not exist,” the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) said on Sunday. “Neither the Iranian regime nor anybody else can present it.”

MEMRI has issued multiple reports about the fake fatwa, even noting that EU officials have been skeptical of its existence:

To date, the Europeans refuse to accept it. According to unofficial sources, the legal advisors of the EU3 made an official request to the Iranian regime in 2005 to provide a copy of the “fatwa,” but in vain.

MEMRI president Yigal Carmon told Fox News observed that Ayatollah Khamenei has been asked about it:

In July, the Iranian website Tasnimnews, which is linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, published an extensive list of 493 fatwas from Khamenei dating back to 2004. None forbade the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Carmon noted that Khamenei in 2012 was asked directly about the morality of pursuing nuclear weapons, and his answer was telling.

The question asked to Khamenei was, in light of a Koran teaching that orders Muslims to “prepare against [non-Muslims] whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah,” is it also “forbidden to obtain nuclear weapons, as per your ruling that their use is prohibited?”

Khamenei’s answer, according to MEMRI, was “your letter has no jurisprudential aspect. When it has a jurisprudent position, then it will be possible to answer it.”

Carmon said if a fatwa against the pursuit of nuclear weapons existed, Khamenei would have cited it.

“Wouldn’t you think he would say, ‘I given my fatwa, and it is this?’” Carmon said.

Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has chided Obama for citing the fake fatwa:

In declaring that diplomacy could work, Obama referred to a “fatwa” by Iran’s supreme leader against nuclear weapons, but Bolton pointed out that no one in the West has ever seen this document.

“The President of the United States showed just how gullible and naive and inexperienced he is by saying ‘well, the Iranians say they don’t want nuclear weapons.’ Well, what could go wrong there?” Bolton asked.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also fell for the fake fatwa, according to CNS News:

In April 2012, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a visit to Tehran raised the fatwa issue with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton told reporters in Istanbul that she was “very interested” to hear that the Turks had been told “that the supreme leader viewed weapons of mass destruction as religiously prohibited, against Islam.”

“If the Iranians are truly committed to that statement of belief as conveyed to the prime minister and the foreign minister, then they should be open to reassuring the international community that it’s not an abstract belief but it is a government policy,” Clinton added.

Two days later Clinton again mentioned the fatwa, saying she had discussed it with “a number of experts and religious scholars.”

Tariq Alhomayed, editor-in-chief of the London-based, Saudi-owned daily Asharq Al-Awsat, in a column at the time said trusting Tehran on the basis of a religious ruling was “truly absurd.”

But not absurd enough for this administration, apparently.

UPDATE: A commenter on Twitter noted that Harvard’s Belfer Center has published a paper chronicling fatwas and statements by Islamic authorities for and against nuclear weapons. But the only apparent (from my quick read of the paper) reference to Ayatollah Khamenei was a reported 2003 statement (Correction: p. 61 also references statements made by Khomeini reported in this 2010 news article, but again, the actual fatwa is referred to but not produced). A statement or a news report, or even a claim that a fatwa exists, which as the MEMRI articles observe has been made several times by Iranian officials, is not an actual fatwa, which is specifically what Rhodes invoked according to Garrett.

As MEMRI has documented, Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwas are publicly cataloged on the Supreme Leader’s website, but no anti-nuclear weapons fatwa can be found. Or perhaps the fatwa is in occultation with the Shia’s Hidden Imam?

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Clinton State Department’s ‘Lady Taliban’ Under Active FBI Investigation

Thursday, November 6th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Stunning news related to a top Clinton State Department diplomat, former Assistant Secretary of State Robin Raphel, that the Washington Post is reporting tonight is subject to an active FBI counter-intelligence investigation:

A veteran State Department diplomat and longtime Pakistan expert is under federal investigation as part of a counterintelligence probe and has had her security clearances withdrawn, according to U.S. officials.

The FBI searched the Northwest Washington home of Robin L. Raphel last month, and her State Department office was also examined and sealed, officials said. Raphel, a fixture in Washington’s diplomatic and think-tank circles, was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire this week.

Two U.S. officials described the investigation as a counterintelligence matter, which typically involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments. The exact nature of the investigation involving Raphel remains unclear. She has not been charged.

She was the first official to hold the position of assistant secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, appointed to that position by President Bill Clinton, and later served as US Ambassador to Tunisia and Senior Vice President of the National Defense University.

In August 2009, she was appointed as deputy for US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, where she was responsible for disbursing non-military aid to Pakistan.

This appointment was controversial because Raphel had been a registered agent for the Government of Pakistan just days before her new position was announced, and because of her close association with the Taliban during the Clinton Administration, earning Raphel the moniker, “Lady Taliban.”

According to one 2009 report:

Robin Raphel, 67, who has the dubious distinction of being a lobbyist for the former military regime of General Pervez Musharraf and who also has close ties with the Taliban as part of her lobbying for UNOCAL, will be the main person overlooking the $1.5 billion aid package to Pakistan, giving rise to concerns the U.S. taxpayers monies would go down the Pakistan drain.

Raphel is widow of former US Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel who had perished in the mysterious aircrash that killed Pakistan military dictator General Ziaul Haq and top brass of his military on August 17, 1988.

Raphel was appointed last month as deputy to Mr. Richard Holbrooke, the US. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan…

He said another reason to doubt Secretary Clinton’s assertion of accountability is in the naming of Robin Raphel as a deputy to U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakstan, Richard Holbrooke.

“She had been a Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs beginning in 1993 and on her watch, the madrassas bloomed. Robin Raphel is the person who, during the Clinton presidency, squired Taliban officials around Washington as the next best hope for Afghan leadership,” Dienstag recalled.

Raphel was lobbying for the ill-fated UNOCAL pipe line project at the time.

Raphel eventually became a lobbyist at Cassidy & Associates for the military administration of General Pervez Musharraf. “She was responsible for the lobbying for Pakistan in the State Department as a registered foreign agent of Pakistan and the firm had a $1.2 million contract with the Govt of Pakistan. At this time Jezail sees this as a highly dubious appointment of a well known revolving door retread to a sensitive position,” Dienstag said.

Details of the current FBI investigation haven’t been released, but it is expected that her ties to Pakistan are likely to be focus of the matter.

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How Obama Walked Boehner and GOP Leadership Off the Syrian Rebel Cliff

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

One of the last acts Congress undertook before leaving Washington, D.C., in September for the midterm election break was to add $500 million in new funding to arm and train the so-called “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels. The $500 million in funding had been an agenda item for Obama since June, when ISIS began making quick gains in an offensive push back into Iraq.

But the political net effect of this vote was to get the GOP leadership in Congress to publicly buy into Obama’s rapidly crumbling Syria policy. Led by Boehner in the House and McConnell in the Senate, the congressional GOP leadership allowed Obama to walk them off the Syrian rebel cliff.

As I reported here at PJ Media yesterday, the most important “vetted moderate” rebel groups are in retreat, having surrendered or defected to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria.

This development should come as no surprise to any member of the congressional GOP. In the week before the rebel amendment funding vote, I was asked to brief a number of GOP members and prepared a presentation on the collapse of the U.S.-backed Syria rebels that was widely circulated amongst both the House and Senate GOP conferences.

Among the chief trends I noted in these briefings — and that I was concurrently reporting on here — was that large groups of Free Syrian Army (FSA) units were defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, surrendering their U.S.-provided weapons along the way, and that other FSA units were forging peace deals and fighting alongside al-Qaeda and ISIS in some areas.

Even before the votes on the rebel funding, there was growing evidence that these “vetted moderate” forces were not moderate at all, and certainly would provide little assistance in fighting against ISIS.

Obama was hinting at where his policy was headed, too. Just a month before those congressional votes, in an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Obama said that the belief that arming the Syrian rebels would have changed the situation had “always been a fantasy”:

With “respect to Syria,” said the president, the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy. This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”

Even now, the president said, the administration has difficulty finding, training and arming a sufficient cadre of secular Syrian rebels: “There’s not as much capacity as you would hope.”

Again, this was more than a month before congressional GOP leadership took up the cause of sending $500 million more to the Syrian rebels, even though there were reports that the FSA had already lost at least $500 million in arms to ISIS and other jihadist groups.

GOP leaders also bought in on another highly controversial element to Obama’s Syrian rebel policy. In September 2013, it was reported that Obama had signed a waiver circumventing a federal law intended to prohibit aid from going to terrorist groups. But when GOP leadership rolled out their amendment to fund the “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels, it contained hardly any substantial limits to Obama’s waiver policy.

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U.S.-Armed ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Groups Surrender, Defect to Al-Qaeda

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Reports the past two days indicate that two “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel groups, Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), have surrendered, with some even defecting, to Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria.

Ruth Sherlock reports today at The Telegraph:

Two of the main rebel groups receiving weapons from the United States to fight both the regime and jihadist groups in Syria have surrendered to al-Qaeda.

The US and its allies were relying on Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front to become part of a ground force that would attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

For the last six months the Hazm movement, and the SRF through them, had been receiving heavy weapons from the US-led coalition, including GRAD rockets and TOW anti-tank missiles.

But on Saturday night Harakat Hazm surrendered military bases and weapons supplies to Jabhat al-Nusra, when the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria stormed villages they controlled in northern Idlib province.

The development came a day after Jabhat al-Nusra dealt a final blow to the SRF, storming and capturing Deir Sinbal, home town of the group’s leader Jamal Marouf.

The attack caused the group, which had already lost its territory in Hama to al-Qaeda, to surrender.

A couple important points to note based on other reporting.

First is that al-Nusra was reportedly aided in the attack on the SRF by ISIS. According to a McClatchy report:

Even more ominous was that that the Islamic State, now far stronger and claiming to run a Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, reportedly had joined Jabhat al Nusra in the attack on the village of Deir Sinbul…

If Islamic State fighters in fact joined Nusra in the attack, it will have major repercussions for the war in Syria, for the two groups have been divided since April 2013, when Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the Iraq-based leader, announced the creation of the Islamic State. Nusra had supported the rebel war against Assad until very recently and also was at war with the Islamic State.

This is evidence of growing rapprochement between al-Nusra and ISIS, a movement I predicted just two weeks ago.

The second point is that reports indicate that one contributing factor to SRF’s collapse was the defection of some of their “vetted moderate” fighters:

In the past few days, the Nusra Front captured several villages in the Jabal al-Zawiya region of Idlib province and on Saturday it entered the village of Deir Sonbol, the stronghold of the Revolutionaries’ Front, forcing Maarouf to pull out.

“Dozens of his fighters defected and joined Nusra, that is why the group won,” Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters.

A Nusra fighter confirmed the report, saying: “They left him because they knew he was wrong and delusional.”

“He left his fighters in the battle and pulled out. Last night, we heard them on the radio shouting ‘Abu Khaled (Maarouf) escaped, Abu Khaled escaped’,” he added.

One Arabic language report indicates that 600 Hazm fighters defected, with 400 in Qalamoun and 200 up north (HT: Aymenn al-Tamimi). Whoever is doing the vetting of the “vetted moderates” for the State Department is clearly not doing a good job.

But perhaps more important is that both SRF and Hazm were  armed and trained by the U.S., with those weapons now falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

As the Telegraph report cited above indicates, SRF had been armed with GRAD rockets and TOW missiles. Another report indicates that SRF tanks and other arms were captured following SRF’s retreat.

I reported here at PJ Media that Hazm had publicly condemned U.S. airstrikes on ISIS and al-Nusra as “an attack on the revolution.”

Both groups also received the hearty support of the Washington, D.C., foreign policy establishment, with Harakat al-Hazm being praised as “rebels worth supporting” and “a model candidate for greater U.S. and allied support, including lethal military assistance,” and SRF being hailed as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies.”

Those chances are looking pretty bleak at the moment.

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BREAKING: Reports Say ISIS Hits U.S. Embassy in Baghdad with Mortars

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

RIA Novosti is confirming reports seen on Twitter in the past few hours that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has been hit by rockets/mortars by ISIS:

The report:

BAGHDAD, October 22 (RIA Novosti) – The US Embassy in Iraq located in central Baghdad has been shelled with rockets, Al-Mustakillah news agency reported Wednesday citing a security source.

“On Tuesday night the US Embassy was hit with three rockets. They were fired from a park area in the Dora district [in southern Baghdad],” the agency’s source said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Al-Sumaria TV channel reported a mortar shelling of the so-called “green zone” in the center of the capital, housing government buildings and foreign missions. Security forces surrounded the area to repel a potential attack.

In my article last week on possible implications of ISIS taking Baghdad, I raised the issue of the problem of evacuating the thousands of U.S. military, diplomatic personnel, and American citizens from Iraq if Baghdad fell.

Reports yesterday indicated that ISIS had been walking rounds into the International Zone, presumably to sight in their rounds.

And the Washington Post reported last Thursday that ISIS had been lobbing rounds into the International Zone since early this month:

On Oct. 1, four mortar shells struck inside the Green Zone, a fortified area in central Baghdad filled with foreign embassies and government buildings, according to a U.S. Embassy security official, who declined to be identified. The rounds fell a few hundred yards from the U.S. Embassy and followed another mortar attack a week earlier, he said.

Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, spokesman for Baghdad Operations Command, confirmed that mortar fire had hit inside the Green Zone but said the shells landed on “empty space without any buildings.” He declined to give further details but said an investigation was underway to determine its source. He stressed that there have been no further incidents.

Consider today’s attack by ISIS a “further incident.”

Will the D.C. foreign policy establishment tell us, again, that ISIS attacking our embassy in Baghdad is a “sign of desperation” and an indication of their weakness?

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BREAKING: Possible Terror Attack in Canada by Reported ISIS Sympathizer, Dead Suspect Is Martin ‘Ahmad’ Rouleau

Monday, October 20th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

NOTE: Updates below this post

According to multiple reports, Canadian authorities are investigating a hit-and-run and subsequent high-speed car chase this morning in St. Jean sur Richelieu in Quebec province as a possible terror attack. (HT: Stewart Bell)

CBC reports:

A man in his 30s was shot by police in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., earlier this afternoon after he hit two members of the Canadian Forces with his car and led police on a dramatic high-speed chase.

The soldiers were hit in a parking lot of a commercial plaza at around 11:30 a.m. ET. Both were injured, one critically.

The incident was raised in the House of Commons this afternoon by Conservative MP Randy Hoback, who questioned Prime Minister Stephen Harper about “unconfirmed reports of a possible terror attack” targeting members of the Canadian Forces.

Harper, reading from a piece of paper, would only say he was ”aware of these reports” and that they are troubling.

Police have not named the soldiers but confirmed at an afternoon news conference that they were members of the armed forces.

Another report indicates that the suspect was inside the military office beforehand talking about ISIS and may be an ISIS sympathizer.

This incident comes weeks after ISIS called for Western supporters to attack and “slaughter soldiers” in their homes. The message made suggestions for such an attack:

“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

“If you are unable to do so, then burn his home, car, or business. Or destroy his crops. If you are unable to do so, then spit in his face.”

If this is a confirmed attack, it may be a copycat attack based off of the May 2013 killing of British Army drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich.

UPDATE: Stewart Bell directs to this report that the suspect (who has died from his wounds) is Martin “Ahmad” Rouleau, who was known to Canadian counterterrorism authorities.

UPDATE2: Rouleau’s Facebook page is filled with caliphate imagery.

UPDATE3: Here’s a picture of Rouleau from his Ummaland (Muslim social networking site) page, where is user name was “Ahmad the Convert”:

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UPDATE4: Canadian Prime Minister’s Office says that Rouleau “had become radicalized”:

“The individual who struck the two CAF members with his car is known to federal authorities, including the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team,” said the statement from Jason MacDonald, the prime minister’s spokesman.

“Federal authorities have confirmed that there are clear indications that the individual had become radicalized. As Canada’s national security agencies have said, Canadians should remain vigilant.”

UPDATE5: Stewart Bell of the National Post reports on Rouleau’s online activity:

A Twitter account under the name Ahmad Rouleau featured the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham, the terrorist group that last month called on its followers to kill Canadians because of Ottawa’s role in the anti-ISIS military coalition.

“Islam is the only true religion. Anyone who want scientific proof of God that your terrorist Zionism Rothschild media hide, contact me or add me if you re open minded,” he commented beneath an online Time magazine article last May.

On a Facebook page under the same name, French and English posts — the last one on Friday — denounced Christianity and Judaism. “Allah has promised the hypocrite men and hypocrite women and the disbelievers the fire of Hell, wherein they will abide eternally. It is sufficient for them. And Allah has cursed them, and for them is an enduring punishment,” he wrote.

UPDATE6: The Toronto Sun adds this interesting tidbit:

A source says the suspect called 911 during the chase to say that he carried out his acts in the name of Allah.

And also reports:

Couture-Rouleau became known to the RCMP after a relative alerted police to the man’s terrorist leanings, a police source told QMI Agency.

A neighbor told QMI that Couture-Rouleau had grown out his beard and started wearing a turban after converting to Islam a year ago.

UPDATE7: National Post reports that one of the soldiers run down by Rouleau has died.

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Obama Throws the Free Syrian Army Under the Bus

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

For the past three years, the Obama administration has hailed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as the saviors of Syria — the “vetted moderate” force that was going to topple the butcher Assad. Because of that, the administration provided training, money and weapons to prop up the FSA (the word is they sent lawyers too).

But according to a report last night by Hannah Allam at McClatchy, Obama is now throwing the FSA under bus:

John Allen, the retired Marine general in charge of coordinating the U.S.-led coalition’s response to the Islamic State, confirmed Wednesday what Syrian rebel commanders have complained about for months – that the United States is ditching the old Free Syrian Army and building its own local ground force to use primarily in the fight against the Islamist extremists.

“At this point, there is not formal coordination with the FSA,” Allen told reporters at the State Department.

That was perhaps the bluntest answer yet to the question of how existing Syrian rebel forces might fit into the U.S. strategy to fight the Islamic State. Allen said the United States’ intent is to start from scratch in creating a home-grown, moderate counterweight to the Islamic State.

For most of the three years of the Syrian conflict, the U.S. ground game hinged on rebel militias that are loosely affiliated under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, or FSA. Their problems were no secret: a lack of cohesion, uneven fighting skills and frequent battlefield coordination with the al Qaida loyalists of the Nusra Front.

Last month I reported here at PJ Media about the coordination of the “vetted moderate” FSA with Jabhat al-Nusra and even ISIS. That coordination was later confirmed by a senior FSA commander.

Those reports came just as Congress was considering a vote to spend another $500 million to train their administration’s “vetted moderate” partners. That funding was approved by both the House and the Senate before Congress left town for the election break. With Obama cutting the FSA loose less than a month later, those who voted against the funding are going to look like geniuses.

Now that the FSA is safely under the bus it remains to be seen exactly who Obama is going to enlist to train and fight. Most of those who can fight are already in the fight. What are they going to do now, put out an ad on Craig’s List?

As one observer noted last night, Syria watchers should keep an eye out for the following ad showing up in the help wanted section of Middle East newspapers:

Wanted, Multicultural, non-sectarian, Jeffersonian democrats interested in military careers. English a plus. Drug test required.

Under Obama’s bus must be getting crowded…

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5 Key Implications if Baghdad Falls to ISIS

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Reports that ISIS has surrounded Baghdad and is quickly closing in on the Baghdad International Airport (armed with MANPADS, no less) are troubling. Baghdad itself has been rocked by a series of VBIED attacks in the past 24 hours by ISIS, indicating that the battle for Baghdad has begun.

The possible fall of Baghdad could be the most significant development in the War on Terror since 9/11. And yet many among the D.C. foreign policy “smart set” were not long ago mocking such a scenario.

So what happens if such a situation comes to pass? Here are five key implications (by no means limited to these) if Baghdad falls to ISIS:

1) ISIS will not be claiming to the be the Islamic State, they will BE the Islamic State

Symbolism doesn’t matter much to your average post-modern Westerner, but it still does in the Islamic world, and the capture of Baghdad will hold enormous value. For 500 years Baghdad was the seat of the Abbasid caliphate, and its fall to ISIS would allow the terrorist group to reclaim that mantle. Such an event will electrify the Middle East and beyond, with many Muslims holding firmly to the belief that the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924 by Ataturk was one of the key contributing factors in the decline of the Muslim world over the past century. No amount of State Department hashtags or tweets, or pronouncements by Sheikh Barack Obama and Imam John Kerry that there is nothing Islamic about the Islamic State, will be able to negate any claims by ISIS to be the revived caliphate.

2) The Great Reconciliation between jihadist groups will begin

Much of the Obama administration’s anti-ISIS efforts have been trying to leverage other “vetted moderate” groups in Syria against ISIS, with some “smart set” thinkers even advocating engaging “moderate Al-Qaeda” to that end. We are already seeing jihadist groups gravitating towards ISIS, such as the announcement this week by Pakistani Taliban leaders pledging their allegiance to the Islamic State. Other groups of younger jihadis are breaking away from Al-Qaeda franchises in North Africa and defecting to ISIS. Despite bitter rivalries between ISIS and other jihadist groups in Syria, namely Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, these other groups will be hard-pressed to deny ISIS’ caliphate claims if they do take Baghdad. In that part of the world, nothing succeeds like success. If Baghdad falls, jihadist groups, some of whom have been openly hostile or remained neutral, will quickly align behind ISIS. And the horrid sound coming out of Washington, D.C., will be of foreign policy paradigms imploding.

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Have We Reached Peak ISISmania Yet?

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

A few thoughts on the current bout of ISISmania and the systemic problems it exposes:

1) ISISmania has created a financial/legal incentive for sources (most of them “shady” to begin with) used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to manufacture info whole-cloth.

This is nothing new. Think “prison snitches.” Various foreign actors are passing along disinformation to us as well, so mountains of BS are being fed into the system from the get-go.

Imagine, for a purely hypothetical example, a member of Congress getting an authentic report from a senior agency official, but the report is later found to have originated with a non-credible source. So the member of Congress who repeated the report was actually correct that the intel had been shared with them — but the information itself wasn’t reliable.

It never should have been shared in the first place, but it’s the member of Congress who ends up with egg on their face when the agency issues its denial. No one, whether politicians or agency officials, wants to later admit they were duped, so erroneous info never gets corrected.

2) There are considerable problems on the collection and analysis sides of intel in both the intelligence community and law enforcement. In fact, very few know how to do collection — and good analysis is basically prohibited these days.

So the BS and disinfo never gets sifted out. It then gets passed on to elected officials, which is some of what we’re seeing. Then you have agencies and the administration selectively manipulating and leaking according to their own respective agendas. This is how the sausage is being made in DC these days.

3) There is only so much media space, and politicians compete with each other for that space.

So they need to come up with more outlandish claims to get a bigger share of that media space. That creates a disincentive to vet the info they get and publicly talk about. No one gets on Greta by saying: “We need to keep a cool head about this stuff.”

4) Because of that, the game of “I got a secret” is more prevalent than ever before.

Those secrets might be complete equine feces, but the desire to be “in the know,” whether they actually are or not, and the temptation to show that you’re “in the know” are strong.

5) Congress has no mechanism to vet what the agencies and administration tells them.

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U.S.-Backed Syrian Group Harakat al-Hazm Condemns U.S. Strikes on ISIS as ‘Attack on the Revolution’

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Just days after Congress approved $500 million in support for “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels, one of those same “vetted moderate” rebel groups currently receiving heavy weaponry from the U.S. has condemned the U.S. for airstrikes on ISIS in Syria earlier this week.

Harakat al-Hazm, which was one of the first Syrian rebel groups to receive heavy weapons from the U.S. this year, issued a statement Tuesday denouncing the U.S. for the anti-ISIS attacks. Harakat al-Hazm has been hailed by the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment as “rebels worth supporting” and “a model candidate for greater U.S. and allied support, including lethal military assistance.”

As reported by the L.A. Times:

One of the administration’s favored moderate rebel factions, Harakat Hazm, part of the Free Syrian Army alliance and a recipient of U.S. missiles and training, issued a statement Tuesday denouncing the “external intervention” — that is, the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Syria — as “an attack on the revolution.”

The group said its main goal was toppling Assad. It is demanding “unconditional arming” of the Free Syrian Army, yet its members also acknowledge fighting alongside Al Nusra Front, the official Al Qaeda force in Syria.

Still, the country’s motley bands of fighters labeled as moderates may well be the White House’s best hope for now. It has few other options.

Here is a copy of the statement by Harakat al-Hazm:

ByPCk0yCIAExhvhHarakat al-Hazm may sound familiar to PJ Media readers.

Earlier this month I reported that Hazm fighters admitted to an L.A. Times reporter that they were fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. I also noted that despite media claims that Harakat al-Hazm had released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Nusra, it signed a statement of alliance with Nusra to prevent the Assad regime from advancing into Aleppo.

The Obama administration billed the $500 million approved last week by Congress as aid to the rebel groups to help roll back gains by hardcore jihadist groups, including ISIS.

And now that one of the primary groups to which the U.S. is supplying heavy weapons in order to supposedly “roll back” ISIS gains has not only denounced the U.S. for this week’s airstrikes on ISIS, declaring them an “attack on the revolution,” but is also partnering with a U.S.-designated terrorist group, Jabhat al-Nusra, what hope is there really that the “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel groups are going to accomplish that goal?

And one final question: in light of this catastrophe, who is vetting the vetters?

 

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House Amendment Would Allow Obama to Arm, Train Syrian Rebels with Terrorist Ties

Monday, September 15th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

According to reports, the House Armed Services Committee is currently preparing an amendment to arm and train the Syrian rebels that will be voted on this week. If passed, the bill will be attached to the continuing resolution to fund the government until December. **UPDATE** The amendment has been posted.

The most troubling element to the proposed amendment is a provision allowing the Obama administration to arm and train rebels with ties to terrorism. The “vetted moderate rebel” groups supported by the administration are known to be partnering with designated terrorist organizations, and the passage of this amendment would give congressional blessing to such arrangements.

According to The Hill:

The measure includes several provisions intended to satisfy Republicans and Democrats worried about giving the administration blanket authority to arm and train rebel groups, who would be used in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It would require Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to submit the administration’s plan for training the moderate opposition 15 days before the commencement of any such activities, the aide said. That requirement was put forward by the administration, the aide added.

After that, Hagel would have to submit an update to lawmakers every 90 days.

That will be the extent of oversight by Congress — notification by the Pentagon.

But then there’s this:

The Pentagon would be required to list every individual they are recruiting, and would have to provide information on their backgrounds, including any possible links to terrorist organizations, according to the aide.

But the bill would not prohibit people with links to terrorist groups from actually participating in the program, the aide said. Such a blanket prohibition could make it tougher to recruit people for the training program.

Remarkably, this amendment is being billed by Republican leadership and the D.C. media as limiting Obama’s powers.

As I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media the past two weeks, considerable evidence is mounting that the “vetted moderate rebels” that the U.S. has already sent weapons to are allying with ISIS and other terrorist groups on the local level.

On September 3, I reported that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — the main rebel group fighting the Assad regime — recently allied with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. A FSA commander later confirmed my reporting on their alliance near the Lebanon border.

Then on September 9, I reported on one of the first rebel groups to receive heavy weapons from the CIA earlier this year, Harakat al-Hazm, which has also allied with Jabhat al-Nusra.

And this past weekend I reported that the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), which had been billed as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” has signed a peace deal with ISIS according to both Arabic and English media reports. The head of SRF yesterday published a denial — in English (meaning, for Western audiences) — of those reports. And yet, the Wall Street Journal reported in May about SRF’s open cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusra.

So with this House amendment, Republicans would be endorsing the Obama administration’s existing policy of arming and training Syrian rebel groups known to be working with terrorists, which would effectively give Obama political cover in the case of more U.S. weapons ending up in the hands of ISIS and other terrorist groups.

They don’t call the GOP “the stupid party” for nothing.

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**UPDATED**Yet Another U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Makes Peace with ISIS

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Obama’s hope to do anything of substance in Syria took another severe blow yesterday as the U.S.-backed and armed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) struck a peace deal with ISIS, according to both Arabic and English language news reports.

The SRF had only a few months ago been deemed by the U.S. foreign policy establishment as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies.”

Now AFP reports:

Syrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have agreed a non-aggression pact for the first time in a suburb of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group said on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ceasefire deal was agreed between ISIS and moderate and Islamist rebels in Hajar al-Aswad, south of the capital.

Under the deal, “the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime.”

Nussayri is a pejorative term for the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.

According to media reports, other groups joining the ceasefire with ISIS include Liwa Ahrar Turkman al-Golan, Liwa Hittin and Liwa al-Umma al-Wahida.

When seeking U.S. heavy weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles, SRF commander Jamal Maroof was full of bravado, declaring war against ISIS. In May, McClatchy reported that SRF and other “vetted moderate rebel” groups had received TOW missiles from the U.S. and posted videos of their use.

But as soon as weapons were being delivered to Maroof’s SRF forces, he was giving interviews to Western media making clear that “al-Qaeda is not our problem.”

A May 2014 report by Jenan Moussa of Al-Aan notes that Maroof runs SRF in a cave with his three wives and children:

YouTube Preview Image

During that interview where Maroof talks about receiving U.S. military aid and his soldiers receiving U.S. training, there is one curious artifact in the background, as you’ll see in the photo on the next page.

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‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Commander Admits Alliance with ISIS, Confirms PJ Media Reporting

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

As President Obama laid out his “strategy” last night for dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and as bipartisan leadership in Congress pushes to approve as much as $4 billion to arm Syrian “rebels,” it should be noted that the keystone to his anti-Assad policy — the “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) — is now admitting that they, too, are working with the Islamic State.

This confirms PJ Media’s reporting last week about the FSA’s alliances with Syrian terrorist groups.

On Monday, the Daily Star in Lebanon quoted a FSA brigade commander saying that his forces were working with the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate — both U.S.-designated terrorist organizations — near the Syrian/Lebanon border.

“We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army’s gatherings in … Qalamoun,” said Bassel Idriss, the commander of an FSA-aligned rebel brigade.

“We have reached a point where we have to collaborate with anyone against unfairness and injustice,” confirmed Abu Khaled, another FSA commander who lives in Arsal.

“Let’s face it: The Nusra Front is the biggest power present right now in Qalamoun and we as FSA would collaborate on any mission they launch as long as it coincides with our values,” he added.

In my report last week I noted that buried in a New York Times article last month was a Syrian “rebel” commander quoted as saying that his forces were working with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in raids along the border with Lebanon, including attacks on Lebanese forces. The Times article quickly tried to dismiss the commander’s statements, but the Daily Star article now confirms this alliance.

Among the other pertinent points from that PJ Media article last week was that this time last year the bipartisan conventional wisdom amongst the foreign policy establishment was that the bulk of the Syrian rebel forces were moderates, a fiction refuted by a Rand Corporation study published last September  (CORRECTION: As the article at the link notes, the study was by IHS Janes, not Rand Corporation) that found nearly half of the Syrian “rebels” were jihadists or hard-core Islamists.

Another relevant phenomenon I noted was that multiple arms shipments from the U.S. to the “vetted moderate” FSA were suspiciously raided and confiscated by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, prompting the Obama administration and the UK to suspend weapons shipments to the FSA last December.

In April, the Obama administration again turned on the CIA weapons spigot to the FSA, and Obama began calling for an additional $500 million for the “vetted moderate rebels,” but by July the weapons provided to the FSA were yet again being raided and captured by ISIS and other terrorist groups. Remarkably, one Syrian dissident leader reportedly told Al-Quds al-Arabi that the FSA had lost $500 million worth of arms to rival “rebel” groups, much of which ended up being sold to unknown parties in Turkey and Iraq.

At the same time U.S.-provided FSA weapons caches were being mysteriously raided by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the senior FSA commanders in Eastern Syria, Saddam al-Jamal, defected to ISIS. In March, Jabhat al-Nusra joined forces with the FSA Liwa al-Ummah brigade to capture a Syrian army outpost in Idlib. Then in early July I reported on FSA brigades that had pledged allegiance to ISIS and surrendered their weapons after their announcement of the reestablishment of the caliphate. More recently, the FSA and Jabhat al-Nusra teamed up last month to capture the UN Golan Heights border crossing in Quneitra on the Syria/Israel border, taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

But the Free Syrian Army is not the only U.S.-armed and trained “rebel” force in Syria that the Obama administration is having serious trouble keeping in the “vetted moderate” column.

Earlier this week I reported on Harakat al-Hazm, which was the first of the “vetted moderates” to receive U.S. anti-tank weaponry earlier this year. Harakat al-Hazm is reportedly a front for the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Turkey and Qatar, its Islamist state sponsors.

An L.A. Times article was published this past Sunday from the battle lines in Syria. The reporter recounted a discussion with two Harakat al-Hazm fighters who admitted, “But Nusra doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusra.”

Despite a claim by the L.A. Times that Harakat al-Hazm had released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with al-Nusra Front, I published in my article earlier this week an alliance statement signed by both Jabhat al-Nusra and Harkat al-Hazm forging a joint front in Aleppo to prevent pro-Assad forces from retaking the town.

As the Obama administration began to provide heavy weaponry to Harakat al-Hazm, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy published an analysis hailing Harakat Hazm as “rebels worth supporting,” going so far as to say that the group was “a model candidate for greater U.S. and allied support, including lethal military assistance.”

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Fighter With ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Tells L.A. Times They Fight Alongside Al-Qaeda

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Last week here at PJ Media, I reported on the ongoing relations between the U.S.-backed “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army and ISIS. I also noted that, at this time last year, the received wisdom of the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment was that the Syrian rebels were largely moderate.

Now, a report in this past Sunday’s L.A. Times from the frontlines in Syria finds that another “vetted moderate” rebel group, Harakat Hazm – which has received anti-tank missiles from the U.S. — has been working with al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra: a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. (HT: Tim Furnish and Tom Joscelyn.)

As Al-Akhbar reported back in May, in addition to having U.S. backing, Harakat Hazm is also backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, and Qatar.

As the L.A. Times reporter rides with two U.S.-backed and armed Harakat Hazm fighters, the topic of conversation turns to Jabhat al-Nusra:

Harakat Hazm, for example, has struggled with being regarded as a U.S. pawn and labeled as secular in the midst of an opposition movement that has grown increasingly Islamist.

“Inside Syria we became labeled as secularists and feared Nusra Front was going to battle us,” Zeidan said, referring to an Al Qaeda-linked rebel group that has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. Then he smiled and added, “But Nusra doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusra.”

But the L.A. Times reporter then immediately adds:

In July, eight West-backed rebel brigades — all recipients of military aid — released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Al Nusra Front.

But at the same time Harakat Hazm was supposedly releasing a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Nusra, it signed a statement of alliance with Nusra to prevent the Assad regime from advancing into Aleppo. The alliance statement was published on Twitter:

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What the statement and the Aleppo alliance demonstrate is something that I and others have been contending all along: the so-called Syrian rebels given the State Department’s “vetted moderate” imprimatur have been playing a double-game. And the Obama administration, the foreign policy establishment and the establishment media have all gladly played along with our “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel allies.

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EXCLUSIVE: Saudis Raid House Church, Arrest 27 Christians

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Arabic media reports indicate that Saudi authorities raided a house church in Khafji province, arresting 27 men, women and children. The raid was conducted by the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, according to reports.

Khafji was the site of the first major ground engagement of the 1991 Gulf War.

The raid is another part of an ongoing harassment campaign directed at Christians at the exact same time that the Saudi Kingdom is making a major “interfaith outreach” push internationally.

Here is an Arabic report that appeared late yesterday on Twitter: BwyfgyiIgAAPg5s

Another report appears to show pictures of the Saudi raid:

BwyiPITCYAAW3KG

A 2010 Reuters report observes the plight of Christians in the Gulf states and the Arabian Peninsula:

At least 3.5 million Christians of all denominations live in the Gulf Arab region, the birthplace of Islam and home to some of the most conservative Arab Muslim societies in the world. The freedom to practice Christianity — or any religion other than Islam — is not always a given in the Gulf and varies from country to country. Saudi Arabia, which applies an austere form of Sunni Islam, has by far the tightest restrictions.

As the Islamic State engages in widespread religious cleansing in Iraq and Syria of ancient Christian communities, it might be fair to ask whether the difference between Wahhabis and the Islamic State is merely of degree and not kind.

Also read: The Islamic State vs. the Islamic Republic

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U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Operating Openly with ISIS, Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

As the Obama administration struggles to address the threat from ISIS and plans to go to Congress in the coming weeks to up its commitment against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, multiple media reports indicate that the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) is operating openly with ISIS and other designated terrorist groups. And yet financial and military support for the FSA is the keystone to the administration’s policy in Syria.

Some background is essential.

It was just over a year ago that the Institute for the Study of War’s Liz O’Bagy was opining in the Wall Street Journal about her travels to Syria and purported discovery that the Syrian “rebels” really weren’t bloodthirsty jihadists, but moderates worthy of U.S. financial and military support — in particular, heavy weapons. Her claims about the Syrian rebels, particularly the FSA, were cited and praised by Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain.

That view, of course, quickly came crashing down as O’Bagy came under fire for failing to disclose that she was also a paid agent of a Syrian rebel front. (She had also lied about her academic credentials.) Within two weeks of her op-ed appearing, she was fired from the Institute for the Study of War, though she was hired two weeks later by Senator McCain as a Senate staffer.

At the same time that O’Bagy’s career was taking a hit, the narrative that the Syrian “rebels” were all secular moderates was quickly collapsing. A Rand Corporation study (Correction: The report was by IHS Janes, not Rand) appeared two weeks after O’Bagy’s op-ed saying that nearly half of the Syrian “rebels” were jihadists or hardline Islamists (as if there were a discernible difference). Meanwhile, the FSA was under serious pressure from the very jihadist groups that Ms. O’Bagy had assured were not a problem.

Another practical problem developed with providing weapons to the FSA. As soon as weapons shipments from the CIA were arriving in Syria, the FSA weapons caches were being raided by jihadist groups, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, under very suspicious circumstances. The problem got so bad that by last December, both the U.S. and the UK had stopped weapons shipments to the FSA.

But by April of this year, the Obama adminstration’s CIA weapons spigot was turned back on, with the FSA now receiving heavy weapons, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. And in late June, President Obama asked Congress for $500 million to arm and train the FSA.

This move was not without controversy as the Syrian Military Council chief-of-staff warned that the U.S. was circumventing the SMC and providing weapons directly to FSA units that could end up creating Afghan/Somali-style warlords in Syria. The State Department responded to that criticism by assuring that the weapons were going to “moderate, vetted groups” (because, of course, the State Department has such a long, illustrious history of vetting Islamic “moderates”).

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Report: 3 More Americans Killed Fighting with ISIS in Syria

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Reports this past week identified two Americans – Douglas McCain from San Diego and Abdiraaman Muhumad from Minneapolis — who were killed by Syrian rebel groups last weekend as they were fighting with ISIS.

A new claim was made on a Syrian rebel Twitter feed this morning saying that an additional three Americans have been killed fighting with ISIS near Ghouta.

A video purporting to show the three dead Americans was posted on Youtube (WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO):

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Yet another American from Florida, Moner Mohammad Abusalha, conducted a suicide bombing for Jabhat al-Nusra — the official Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria — back in May.

An article in the current issue of The Economist reports on Western foreign fighters joining jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. The following graphic included in that article estimates that 70 Americans are currently fighting there, though other estimates have indicated that more than one hundred may be in the area.

20140830_MAC990_595GRAPHIC: The Economist

 

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Middle East Meltdown: Here’s What’s Happening

Monday, August 11th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

The Middle East is in full meltdown and the U.S. is rapidly nearing full retreat in the region. But considering the incompetents running our foreign policy, our absence may be best for the Middle East for the moment.

So here’s what’s happening:

Iraq: Last night Prime Minister Maliki gave a speech accusing new President Fuad Masum of violating the constitution as Golden Dawn militias backing Maliki took up strategic positions around Baghdad, including the Green Zone, in an all-out coup. Remarkably, Maliki is accusing Masum of a coup. Maliki’s issue with Masum is that the new president has not selected Maliki for a third term as prime minister. One report said that U.S. forces had to extricate President Masum from the presidential palace when it came under mortar fire from Maliki’s renegades. Let’s not forget the words of President Obama in December 2011, when he declared that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” upon pulling out all remaining U.S. troops.

Islamic State: A coup, of course, is exactly what Iraq needs right now as the terrorist Islamic State continues to push south despite U.S. airstrikes. The terror group is conducting ethnic and religious cleansing of Yahzidis and Christians, creating a staggering humanitarian crisis. Last week the Islamic State forces captured the dam north of Mosul, the largest dam in Iraq which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers described in 2007 as “the most dangerous dam in the world” because of its instability. This is a key strategic asset that will give the Islamic State control of the Tigris River as they push towards Baghdad. The best hope to stall this push is not the Iraqi army, which collapsed several weeks ago when the Islamic State began their offensive, but Kurdish forces. The Islamic State is also preparing to target Saudi intelligence officials as they plan to open a front there, despite the fact that much of their funding has come from Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon: Iraq is not the only place where the Islamic State has launched an offensive. Last week they launched an attack on the Lebanese border town of Arsal, overrunning Lebanese army checkpoints and taking Lebanese soldiers hostage. Arsal is home to a large camp housing refugees from Syria. ISIS took the captives hoping to exchange them for a Syrian Islamist militia commander supported by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State who had been arrested by Lebanese authorities. Although the terrorist groups eventually agreed to withdraw and release their captives, the New York Times quoted one of their commanders saying that the attack forces included the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra (the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate) and the Free Syrian Army – the same Free Syrian Army receiving weapons from the U.S. As I reported here last month, some of those U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army forces have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Lebanon remains without a president as Hezbollah and their March 8 Alliance allies in parliament refuse to elect a president, a position reserved for a Maronite Christian. Syrian refugees now make up one-third of the country’s population, further destabilizing Lebanon.

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Brookings Scholar Tweets: Israel Finally Dupes Hamas into Bombing Israel

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Charles Lister of the Brookings Institution is a sought-after expert on the jihadist insurgency in Syria. But this morning he decided to wade into the Israel-Hamas conflict, tweeting out this gem:

Lister-Israel-HamasMissing from Lister’s 140 character analysis, however, is the fact that missiles from Hamas-controlled Gaza have been raining down on Israel all year, with 450 launched so far in 2014 — 250 of those within the past week and 80 yesterday alone. Fully 40 percent of Israel’s population — 3.5 million — live within range of missile strikes from Gaza. The vast majority of missiles launched from Gaza end up hitting non-military targets.

Of particular concern is that Hamas has been the recipient of longer-range missiles from Iran, including the Fajr-5 and the M-75, which has an effective range of 75km. This is why Hamas officials were bragging to the media back in March that in any future confrontation that the “heart of Israel” would be targeted. Just days before that boast, Israel stopped a Gaza-bound ship loaded with 40 long-range rockets that could travel as far as 160km (100 miles).

The 1988 Hamas Covenant also invokes a notorious Hadith calling for the genocide of Jews (article 7):

Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

Lister is currently a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center, which is funded by the State of Qatar. One of the chief architects of the recent rapprochement between Hamas and Iran (on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict) has reportedly been Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah, who visited Iran in late February.

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US ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Brigades Surrender Weapons, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic State

Monday, July 7th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

The heart of the Obama Administration’s policy to overthrow Assad in Syria has been the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has been provided U.S. taxpayer-financed weapons training, small arms, and, most recently, TOW anti-tank missiles.

This has been done under the pretense that the State Department has carefully selected the FSA as “vetted moderates,” ensuring that those weapons wouldn’t end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Many, including myself, have scoffed at this policy since the State Department has a poor track record in recent decades of identifying “vetted moderates,” expressing concerns that there was never any guarantee those weapons wouldn’t end up in the hands of terror groups.

But reports emerging from Syria confirm those fears stating that FSA brigades in eastern Syria have surrendered their arms and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State announced recently by ISIS:

Sources and eyewitnesses in the border town of al-Bukamal east Syria informed Zaman Alwasl that many factions affiliated with FSA have pledged allegiance with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) amid a huge public attendance, where their weapons have been handed over to “ISIS”.

The source said brigades of Ahl Al Athar, Ibin al-Qa’im, and Aisha have pledged allegiance to the State after clashes that ended quickly for the benefit of ISIS, while the leader of these brigades and factions have fled to the countryside of al-Bukamal into neighboring towns in Deir Ezzor province.

In fairness, the FSA as “vetted moderates” policy has been a laughable bipartisan folly, receiving support from John McCain and Lindsey Graham, among other Republicans.

But past incidents of US-backed FSA weapons caches falling into the hands of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra over the past year have not prompted any reconsideration of this policy. Thus, it is unlikely that this most recent dramatic setback is going to give either the Obama administration or McCain GOP foreign policy orbit a moment of pause.

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Pentagon’s Desert Storm Imam Expelled From Bangladesh For Extremist Views

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Internationally-renowned hate preacher Bilal Philips has added Bangladesh to the countries he has been banned from according to local media (HT: Tarek Fatah):

A prominent Jamaican-born Salafi scholar has been forced to leave Bangladesh for his alleged “extremist” views. 

Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips left Dhaka last Wednesday after the Bangladeshi intelligence services requested him to leave the country.

Sharif Abu Hayat Apu, who is the manager of a sister company of Islamic Online University, a global educational institute founded by Dr Bilal Philips, confirmed the cleric’s forced departure.

Philips has been refused entry to the US, Britain, Australia, Germany and Kenya for his “extremist” views. The scholar has been accused of encouraging youths to go on jihad and justifying suicide bombings, claims which he strongly denies.

This would be otherwise unremarkable except for the fact that Bilal Philips was called upon to evangelize US troops in Saudi Arabia with the permission of the Pentagon during Desert Storm.

As author J.M. Berger notes in his book, “Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam,” Philips operated under the auspices of the Royal Saudi Air Force and would later utilize his network of US military Muslim converts in the cause of jihad in Bosnia. In 1995, he was named unindicted co-conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing trial.

In this Youtube video, “Da’wah in Desert Storm,” Bilal Philips talks about his evangelization efforts among American troops.

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Obama Snubs New Egyptian President ***UPDATED***

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

***UPDATED*** White House announced that Obama has just finally called Sisi.

The favorable treatment Obama previously gave to ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi differs considerably from that given the newly-inaugurated President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Morsi was inaugurated on June 30, 2012. Obama called to congratulate him nearly a week before on June 24 when the election results were announced.

But two days after Sisi’s inauguration, still no phone call from the “Smart Diplomacy” president.

From yesterday’s State Department press briefing:

QUESTION: Has Secretary Kerry been in contact with his counterpart over the weekend in Egypt?

MS. HARF: Let me check. He has not.

QUESTION: And President Obama – he hasn’t called General Sisi, has he?

MS. HARF: No. And the call – as we’ve said, the President’s obviously been traveling. White House will have more details on timing, but should be happening soon.

QUESTION: Because President Obama did call President Morsi back when he won the election, correct?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And President – I would assume so. I don’t remember. But the President will call him. Again, we look forward to working with him, and sometimes schedules just make these things tough to get people on the phone.

Six days ago the administration said that Obama would be calling Sisi “in the coming days.” The excuse given was that Obama was traveling, because we all know that the president of the United States would never travel with a phone.

Exit question: Is it “smart diplomacy” to snub the newly elected leader of the largest Arab country on the planet and, over the past three decades, one of our closest partners in the Middle East?

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R.I.P. Barry Rubin

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

I was very sad to hear this morning of the passing of our friend and PJ Media contributor Barry Rubin following a 17 month battle with cancer. I know for many of us our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

It has truly been a privilege to call Barry a colleague, a mentor and a friend. When Barry was living in the U.S. several years ago, we would have lunch together every time I was in D.C. at his favorite Chinese restaurant in Bethesda. Always generous with his time, we would have lengthy conversations about recent Middle East events over cashew chicken. Even at the time I would marvel at how much I would learn from those lunch discussions.

After his return to Israel, we would keep in touch by email, with Barry regularly offering encouragement and advice for whatever endeavor I happened to be working on at the time. We would find time to meet whenever he was in the States on a speaking tour or for a conference.

Then came the cancer diagnosis. That notwithstanding, Barry continued with his work.

This past July, Barry and his son served as reenactors at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. I brought a group of friends, mostly reporters and Hill staff, up for the day. Finding Barry amidst thousands of blue-garbed reenactors was like finding a specific needle in a stack of needles, but find him we did. Again, always generous with his time, he plopped down under a tree and gave us an impromptu half-hour briefing of what was happening in Egypt (Morsi had been removed from office the day before) and how it would play out in the Middle East.

I was fortunate enough to see Barry again in September while I was in Israel. I arrived at the Rubins’ apartment in Tel Aviv literally just moments after they had received devastating news that the cancer had advanced. It would have been understandable if they had cancelled plans for the evening. And yet Barry was undeterred, and we walked to a cafe nearby where we had a very candid and personal conversation about mortality. He expressed concern for the care of his family and how much they meant to him.

It was a pleasant surprise a week later as I was beginning to tour Yad Vashem in Jerusalem when I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to see Barry and his family. We walked together though the museum until Barry grew tired. We met later for dinner, and his wife Judy and son Daniel were gracious as I occupied Barry’s time with shop-talk. That was the last time I saw him.

It is impossible to measure how much PJ Media and its readers have benefited from Barry’s insights and how the world will continue to benefit from his whole body of work (with books by and edited by Barry still forthcoming). I know that over the next few days others who knew Barry better and longer will offer more substantial remembrances. But as I get ready for this cold, rainy day in Washington, D.C. I will be thinking today about my colleague, mentor and friend; the kindness, forbearance, graciousness and wisdom he was always willing to impart to me; and offering prayers of comfort for his family.

May his memory be a blessing.

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Gohmert: US funding Pakistan while it commits atrocities in Balochistan

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Human rights groups are calling for a UN fact-finding mission to Pakistan following the discovery of multiple mass graves in Balochistan province this past weekend. Pakistan’s army has been accused of atrocities bordering on genocide, with thousands of Baloch, including scores of independence activists, being “disappeared” in recent years.

Just hours after President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address, Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) took to the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday raising questions of why the US continues to provide millions in aid to Pakistan each year while engaged in these atrocities. He reads from a Toronto Sun oped by Tarek Fatah on this issue published earlier this week. (Also revisit my past reports here at PJ Tatler on our Pakistani “ally” in the War on Terror.)

Here’s the video of Rep. Gohmert’s remarks:

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EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: McDonald’s Employee Admits Being Paid $15 to Protest WW2 Veterans (UPDATED 2x)

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013 - by Patrick Poole

Yesterday I reported from the National World War Two Memorial on several members of Congress crashing the barricades set up by the National Park Service that were keeping out several hundred Honor Flight veterans — many of whom were WW2 veterans — from visiting their own memorial. The Park Service claimed that the memorial and the entire National Mall area had to be closed because of the government shutdown.

The same scene was reenacted again today as two Honor Flights from Missouri and Chicago arrived in prearranged visits. These Honor Flights were met by hundreds of ordinary citizens and about a dozen members of Congress, who once again crashed the barricades to let the veterans into the WW2 Memorial.

After about an hour, about 20 protesters arrived on the scene chanting “Boehner, get us back to work” and claiming they were federal employees furloughed because of the shutdown.

In the video below these protesters were marching towards the press gaggle and I was asking them to show their federal IDs to prove they were in fact federal workers. No one wore their federal ID and none would provide it to prove their claim.

Then, remarkably, a guy carrying a sign passed by wearing a McDonald’s employee shirt, which I noted. I then began asking them how much they had been paid to protest, at which point the guy wearing the McDonald’s shirt came back and admitted he had been paid $15.

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About a minute later a protest organizer ran up to me telling me that the man in question is a contractor working at the McDonald’s in a Smithsonian Museum — a claim she made no effort to prove. The same story was told to Jake Tapper at CNN who was on the scene and made the same inquiry.

And yet that doesn’t explain why he was paid $15 to attend a protest targeting our nation’s honored military veterans.

UPDATE: Huffington Post reporter Arthur Delaney states that the protest was organized by a group called “Good Jobs Nation,” not SEIU as I previously reported, and that, remarkably, the protesters weren’t even federal employees at all but individuals who WORK in federal buildings affected by the shutdown.

Delaney and his HuffPo colleague Ryan J. Reilly have attacked me on Twitter, speculating on what the McDonald’s employee, Luis Chiliquinga, really thought, and chastising me for my editorial standards in reporting on what I recorded. The video speaks for itself.

UPDATE2: So who is “Good Jobs Nation”? Jonathan Adler points me to this Washington Post article that explains:

The group formed about six months ago as a coalition of like-minded labor groups. Its funding comes largely from unions, including the Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Farm Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers, according to organizers.

So they were, in fact, a SEIU rent-a-mob

WAPO adds this:

The group held its first demonstration in May, when service workers at federal buildings walked off the job to protest their wages.

So they voluntarily walk off the job to protest, then complain when Congress gives them extra free time to get some extra scratch from the SEIU and Teamsters to protest.

ConMom has more on “Good Jobs Nation”.

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Exclusive Video: House GOP Members Crash National Park Service Barricade for WW2 Vets

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 - by Patrick Poole

Two Freedom Flights of veterans, one from Iowa and another from Mississippi, arrived in D.C. today to visit their war memorials, but were halted by barricades. Many of the veterans served in World War II and in Korea. As Bryan Preston noted in an earlier post, several House GOP members intervened to make sure those vets could visit the World War II Memorial.

I happened to be driving by, and received a phone call from a congressional staffer telling me what was going on. I caught some of the scene on video just as several busloads of Freedom Flight vets were about to leave.

In this first video, Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN-6) describes the sequence of events leading to the members of Congress intervening:

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Here, Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-1) explains why he and his colleagues crashed the Park Service barricades:

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Needless to say, the Park Service was not happy. This spokeswoman, who didn’t explain why she hadn’t been furloughed, tried her best to castigate the members of Congress without appearing cold-hearted:

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She explained that any enforcement action taken against the congressmen will have to be decided by her political-appointee bosses.

NextGenerationTV’s Michelle Fields tweets that Park Police have shown up on the scene to expel any remaining vets.

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Day Two Highlights from the World Summit on Counter Terrorism

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 - by Patrick Poole

Some interesting and provocative discussions during Day 2 of the World Summit on Counter Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel (my Day 1 overview is here). Some of the highlights from the second day of proceedings:

A report released at the conference announced an estimate that the Assad regime in Syria has 1,000 tons of chemical weapons.

Syracuse professor William Banks offered his assessment, in line with one offered the previous day, that while the Syrian regime may have violated international law with the use of chemical weapons (even though they are not a signatory to the chemical weapons convention), the remedies do not include the use of force, much as President Obama is proposing.

Qanta Ahmed warned against the virulence of Islamist ideology, claiming it was more dangerous than nuclear weapons, and stressed the importance of moderate Muslims unmasking the “wolves in sheeps’ clothing,” i.e., so-called “moderate” Islamists.

Undoubtedly the most lively discussion of the day involved Canadian columnist and author Tarek Fatah. During his speech, which you can see in the clip below, he notes that missing from much of the debate over the use of chemical weapons by Syria, and even Iran’s budding nuclear program, is that Pakistan already possesses 100+ nuclear weapons.

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Fatah also added that two of the top Islamic partners in the “war on terror,” Turkey and Pakistan, are among the biggest purveyors of the jihadist ideology we are confronting globally (Saudi Arabia could also be added to that list).

Brian Jenkins of RAND Corp noted the diminishing effectiveness of strikes aimed at decapitating terrorist organizations. According to his research, a terrorist group that suffers decapitation in the first year of its existence is 8.5 times more likely to disintegrate than if the leadership continues; after 10 years existence, that rate is cut in half; by 20 years (al-Qaeda would fall in this category) the effect of a leadership decapitation strike is negligible.

Jenkins also added that it appears the West is headed towards a permanent state of war with Islamic terrorism.

King’s College professor Peter Neumann said that the number of foreign jihadist fighters traveling to Syria is higher than any other conflict previously seen, which will pose a considerable threat to Western countries down the road.

Former FBI and Treasury official Matt Levitt talked about his new book on the Lebanon-based Hezbollah. He noted that many Hezbollah plots have a U.S. nexus.

Levitt also predicted that regardless of who comes out on top in Syria (Hezbollah is actively fighting on behalf of the Iranian-backed Assad regime), Hezbollah will come out the loser. Gone is their status as “freedom fighters” now that they are waging widespread warfare outside of their own country, severely damaging their credibility.

Thomas Hegghammer from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment reported that there are 4,000-5,000 foreign fighters now operating in Syria. He also added that despite much of the jihadist activity around the world, the threats to Western countries — including the U.S. — are still primarily coming out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy offered the most provocative thesis of the day, saying that “there has to be a revolution in law and jurisprudence” when it comes to terrorism. In the clip below, he says that rather than having government continuing to run to the courts to see what judges will allow, the process needs to be reversed, with governments telling judges and courts what results are needed and leaving it to the courts to find a way to get there:

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I will be traveling to the Syrian border by the Golan Heights tomorrow, missing the last day of the conference. But I’ll be providing a report following that trip.

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